Less than six months after KB Kindleberger became the victim of a mine, Denis Galloway
met a similar fate, thus becoming the fifth warrior of the Class of ’64 to fall in combat. On 24 October 1966 First
Lieutenant Galloway’s platoon was assigned the mission of clearing a minefield, an extremely hazardous task which is one of
the functions of the Corps of Engineers. As an officer, Denis could have chosen to supervise his men from outside the
minefield, but instead, he opted to lead by example and share in the removal and carrying of the mines with his soldiers.
As the unit was doing its job, it came under enemy fire which caused several mines to detonate. Denis was killed instantly.
Most probably, some other young soldier returned home alive because he was not holding a mine at that moment. Denis had
deployed with the lead elements of the 101st Airborne Division and had only been in the country for a short time. In
corresponding with his old roommate, Jim Carson, he had indicated that he was thriving on the responsibility and challenge
of leadership in combat. It is also interesting to note that he was the first and only member of the class to perish while
serving with the 101st, the unit KB Kindleberger had left because it wasn’t deploying soon enough.
Denis was from Elsberry, Missouri, where hes heartland upbringing afforded him the opportunity to work hard and go to
church on Sundays and learn how to sing. He was the son of Eileen and Ralph and the older brother of Diane and Nena.
Denis was an outstanding scholar and athlete in high school and later attended Washington University in St. Louis for
two years before entering West point in the summer of 1960. His background, intelligence, and experience greatly
facilitated his adjustment to the rigors of the academy and he came to be known as “Uncle Denis”. He faithfully
subscribed to The Elsberry Democrat and always passed it around for all to benefit from its down-home philosophy and
humor. One particular notice which he cut out and saved stated, “All hunting, fishing and berry picking on the Floyd
Galloway farms will cease, the privilege has been abused.”
Denis was big enough to play football, but during his plebe year his singing ability qualified him for the Glee Club,
so he chose that over the gridiron. Besides, the Glee Club took regular weekend trips to exciting places with refined
people who invariably had daughters they wanted to introduce to a cadet.
After a successful, but uneventful two years in Company K-2, Denis was reassigned to Company M-2, a “flanker” (tall cadet)
company that was considered to be the most easygoing in the corps. Until 1958 the Corps of Cadets was sized by company
in order to streamline parades. For example, the first company to march onto the plain was A-1, a flanker company.
Then the companies gradually got shorter, reaching their lowest point with the “runt” companies of M-1 and A-2. Finally
they got taller again, ending with M-2, the other tallest company with A-1. Through the years, the companies developed
their own reputations along the general lines that the flanker companies were loose and the runt companies were “chicken”
(strict), especially for plebes. A significant problem with the sized companies persisted within the intramural sports
program in which all cadets participate (unless, of course, one is on a varsity team at the time). The size disparity
made it most difficult for the runt companies when they competed against the flankers in such sports as basketball and
football. By 1962 that problem was solved, but the runt and flanker complexes still lingered.
When the new cows, flanker Denis Galloway, and runt, Jim Carson, checked into Company M-2 in September 1962, they figured
life was going to be great, as the casually dressed company commander greeted them with a beer in his hand. And to make
it even better, M-2 was located in the famous “lost-fifties” divisions, around the corner and out of sight North Area.
No one ever came there except their own tactical officer (TAC), and his visits were somewhat predictable. For Denis it
would not be that great of a change, but for Jim, it would be a 180-degree turn from his old runt company, C-2, where,
as a plebe, he was once stuffed into a wall locker with three other classmates and further tormented as an upperclassman
poured lighter fluid on its surface and lit it.
At first, Jim was assigned to room with Seth Hudgins, but after a short while, the TAC realized that two “goats” (low in
academic standing) in the same room was not a good idea, so he designated the “hive” (high in academics), Denis, to be
Jim’s roommate. It was not clear whether Denis helped bring Jim’s grades up, or Jim caused Denis’s grades to drop, but
the bottom line was that the two forged a strong friendship and both graduated on time, with Denis in the upper twenty
percent of the class. However, it turned out to be the most interesting two years.
After settling into their new home, Denis and Jim began going out after taps on Friday nights. They had gotten to know
some New York City girls with local Italian connections and would scramble up the hill behind the “lost fifties,” jump
into the girls’ car, scrunch down in the backseat while passing through the Military Police (MP) gate, and proceed into
the neighboring town of Highland Falls. There, they would go to Mama Gallu’s and do what normal college students did:
drink beer, eat pizza, and talk. Mama Gallu always put them in a private upstairs room in order to avoid the MP’s who
often came by on their rounds. Eventually, though, an over-zealous duty officer decided to inspect the “lost fifties”
rooms after taps and the two revelers were reported for not being in their room.
In such cases, the charged cadets had to provide a written response to the TAC, which Denis and Jim did, simply stating
that the report was correct, they were out of their room. However, the West point legal system is quite demanding and
the TAC informed them, “You birds have to tell me where you were and what you were doing.” At this critical juncture,
the Cadet Honor Code prevailed. “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” A lie, to the effect
that they were studying in someone else’s room, would have resulted in a mere eight demerits each. That was not even a
thought, though, as Denis, without hesitation spilled the details. Later, at the Punishment Board, the regimental tactical
officer, a colonel, said, “Too bad you got caught; forty-four, eighty-eight, and four.” That meant forty-four demerits,
eighty-eight hours of walking the area and four months of room confinement. Such a sentence signified the end of their
legal extracurricular activities – the track team for Jim, and, for Denis, his beloved Glee Club. It also put an abrupt
end to dating those two young ladies.
At first Denis took the slug (punishment) hard – he hadn’t been used to walking the area on Wednesday and Saturday
afternoons and being confined to his room the rest of the time he wasn’t in class or formation. But soon his intellect
and sense of optimism about life took over and he taught Jim and some of the other “area birds” to play verbal chess
while passing each other on the area. Such mental stimulation helped them greatly, because with some additional demerits
they picked up, they both ended up walking the area from early November until June. In fact, they earned their way into
the Century Club, a highly selective group that only accepts those who walk at least 100 hours on the area. Denis also
took advantage of the extra time in his room to learn to play the guitar and read at least three novels a week.
Jim recalls the following episode of that era: “One day… Denis put me up to a trick. We had been reading a lot in
confinement and read Catch 22. Yossarian was a fictional hero to us, always another mission to fly. So, here’s what
Denis thought up. Note that he also thought to tell me I didn’t have a hair if I didn’t do it, domewhat removing
himself from the risk. … Denis was in the upper portion of the class.
“Before walking punishment tours there was an inspection in ranks. During one of those inspections, I took one of the
first positions, gave my name as Yossarian, and passed inspection without any demerits. As the inspecting officer and
guard passed down the line of cadets, I did a smart two steps to the rear, left turn, and marched to the end of the
line and took my place to be inspected again with my right name. (No advantage to be had, you see, even double jeopardy.)
Again I passed inspection with no demerits.
“Each hour the guard called out our names, and we had to answer to show we were present. When he came to Yossarian, no
one answered. The guard called again and again. By the time he went to report the absence to the duty officer we were
all in tears from the restrained laughter we had to endure. When the duty officer appeared and called out Yossarian,
we had had enough and broke out in rolling laughter that infected the whole area squad.”
When the year finally ground to a close, half of the class went to Germany for a month of Army Orientation Training (the
other half had gone the year before). Denis was assigned to an engineer unit near Budigen as an acting platoon leader
and third lieutenant. There he met and fell in love with Sigrid, the girl he would have married had not his life so
cruelly ended. During firstie year, Denis and Sigrid wrote frequently, and he stared at her picture a lot.
In the spring of 1964 when the firsties ordered their new cars (which they were authorized to have one month before
graduation – for many years now firsties have been authorized to have cars their entire last year), Denis selected a
cheap and practical mode of transportation, which to those not in the know, seemed quite strange for a bachelor. The
reason was that he already had a 1958 Corvette which he had acquired brand new and maintained in the family garage back
in Elsberry. It was his pride and joy which he only used when he was home.
Jim Carson continues: “I can remember him sitting at the desk in our room, playing a song by the name of ‘Down in
the Mines’ on his guitar, or reading the Elsberry Democrat which became an institution for its down-to-earth editorials,
grassroots wit, and vignettes of that portion of Americana which he loved. … I remember Denis frozen in time as a
handsome, courageous young lieutenant that his country, family, men in his platoon and USMA could be proud of. Like that
great book on Vietnam is titled, we were soldiers once, and young.”
During his brief combat tour, Denis was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and two Vietnam Medals.
Denis was laid to rest in the Elsberry Cemetery, only a half mile from his home. His pride and joy, the ’58 Corvette,
is still in perfect condition in the family garage.
~ Fallen Warriors The West Point Class of 1964 by John Murray